Friday, January 19, 2018
Education

District takes 'turnaround' action at nine struggling schools in Pinellas

Pinellas County superintendent Mike Grego has told nine schools that they did not make enough progress this year, demoting two principals and telling teachers they may have to reapply for their jobs.

In a letter to the schools, Grego said Pinellas was required by federal and state law to implement one of five severe "turnaround" options — even though their status as turnaround schools won't be officially determined until after FCAT testing is over and school grades come out this summer.

Grego also warned five schools entering their second year of the turnaround process that they'll continue to see personnel changes. On Tuesday, the board approved his transfer of Maximo's principal to Lake St. George Elementary.

The nine new turnaround schools identified by Grego are Belleair, Campbell Park, Dunedin, Pinellas Park, Bear Creek, High Point and Ponce de Leon elementaries, and Largo and Tyrone middle schools.

"I commend your dedication to high need students and I recognize that you are among the hardest working employees in the district," Grego wrote. "Unfortunately, your school has not shown sufficient progress over the past few years, and, as a result, the district is required by federal and state law to implement one of five 'turnaround option plans' for the 2014-15 school year."

Grego told teachers that some may need to reapply for their jobs, while others may be transferred to a different school.

In an interview, Grego said he was taking preemptive action based on the district's own tests indicating these schools' letter grades are not set to improve.

"We don't have to wait for a letter grade," Grego said, adding that his staff has looked at math and language arts tests, school climate measures and behavior issues in the schools.

The state requires districts to submit turnaround plans by April with the understanding that, should the FCAT scores not improve, the plan would spring into action. Grego said he did not want to wait and have to implement the plan in a compressed time frame after the grades are released this summer.

Even if the schools do improve their grades, the district plans to move forward with the plans.

Dunedin Elementary principal Kathleen Brickley is being demoted to assistant principal at Brooker Creek Elementary. Five years ago, Dunedin was a B school, but most recently earned an F.

Thea Saccasyn, the principal of Ponce de Leon, is being moved to the assistant principal post at Tarpon Springs Middle. Ponce de Leon, an A school five years ago, has earned two consecutive D grades.

"We wanted to place individuals at the places they were last successful," said Grego, referring to the assistant principal level. "It doesn't mean they're not going to be principals again."

Randi Latzke, the principal at Maximo, is moving to Lake St. George Elementary as of June 9. Latzke kept her job last year even as Grego replaced principals at three of the other four turnaround schools.

"We wanted to try a different leadership style there," Grego said. He is bringing in Lakisha Falana, the current principal of Tarpon Springs Elementary, a C school.

All in all, seven principals are being shuffled around the district. Ozona Elementary, an A school for more than a decade, is losing Kerry Apuzzo to Dunedin Elementary. Lake St. George, also an A school, is saying goodbye to Paula Texel as she takes on Ponce de Leon Elementary.

"I think we have schools with high numbers of struggling students and it's very challenging," said long-serving School Board member Linda Lerner. "I think it's going to take a little time to show real progress."

Contact Lisa Gartner at [email protected] You can follow her on Twitter @lisagartner.

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